The Kindest Keepsake

During the week at Mrs. International, I along with all the other contestants had a chance to get to know one another. I had one of those great opportunities when we visited the Botanic Garden and Water Tower Place in downtown Chicago.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I had the good fortune of sitting next to Mrs. South Dakota, Shannon Van Uden Rook. Doesn’t she have the best name? She and I had already gotten to know each other a little bit through Facebook. Shannon is that statuesque blonde who is intelligent and compassionate. And I get the sneaky feeling she doesn't quite realize how eye catching she is. She advocates for children and teens handling mental health issues. I learned so much from her that Wednesday and throughout the week. Funny and beautiful!

Gone with the Wind fabulous!

Shannon is a wife, mom, educator and advocates for children’s mental health and well-being. She is working to increase awareness of the at-risk behaviors within our youth population today. Shannon says issues include, “substance abuse, violence, bullying, suicide attempts/self harm, human trafficking and dropping out of school, just to name a few.”

It’s believed 1 in 5 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with a mental illness. However, Shannon says others go undiagnosed for several reasons, “One being the negative perception which surrounds these kinds of illnesses. In order to help families feel more secure in seeking treatment, we need to change society's mind-set when it comes to the issue of mental illness. The same compassion we show for a child’s diagnosis of diabetes or cancer should be the same compassion shown for a diagnosis dealing with mental health.” I agree!

And then a couple of weeks ago, my doorbell rang. There stood the mailman with a package from Shannon. Inside that package, was the painting she created of my horse, Legacy. I cannot wait to hang it in my house! What a wonderful person and what a wonderfully talented friend.

Legacy in a his glory!

Last week she gave her farewell speech and helped welcome in a new Mrs. South Dakota International 2014. (I had hoped to be there, but was speaking at an annual event as a tribute to my father-in-law.) Congratulations Shannon on a great year representing your state and the International system with grace and integrity! Mwah!

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International


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